February 26, 2009 / 1:07 PM / 8 years ago

South Korea "hit by lightning" by East Europe concerns - president

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak attends the New Year's Reception for Foreign Investors hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, the Seoul Japan Club and the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea at a hotel in Seoul in this January 29, 2009 file photo.Lee Jae-Won/Files

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea, Japan and China were hit by concerns over Eastern Europe like lightning, President Lee Myung-bak said on Thursday.

"East Europe was faced with trouble that travelled to west Europe and then to Asia. Therefore, China, Japan and South Korea were 'hit by lightning while sitting peacefully'," his office quoted Lee as telling a group of housewives.

His comment reflects heightened financial market concerns in recent weeks that the economic downturn in East Europe could weigh on banks in western Europe and lead to a flare up of risk aversion towards Asia.

Moody's Investors Service said in a report last week that emerging Europe posed a threat to western bank ratings because of the economic downturn.

The South Korea won hit its weakest close in nearly 11 years against the dollar on Thursday even after the country's top three financial authorities announced in a rare joint news conference measures aimed at attracting more foreign funds into the country.

"It's tougher than during the IMF crisis period," Lee added, using a local description of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, when the country barely averted a sovereign insolvency with the help of the International Monetary Fund.

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